Forgotten graves from the 17th – 19th centuries may lie hidden beneath the streets and lawns of many modern communities. Older burial grounds that fell into disuse were sometimes abandoned leaving little trace over time. As they gradually disappeared from the landscape, they also vanished from public memory.
Today, when these burial places are accidentally discovered by construction, New York State Museum staff conduct bioarchaeological, or skeletal analyses to help identify the remains. The studies also contribute to a larger scientific effort to learn about health and disease in the colonial era.
In one case, burials found during construction on Pearl Street in downtown Albany were identified from a mid-18th century Lutheran church whose graves were supposedly moved in 1790 when Pearl Street was widened. One of the individuals, a woman who has come to be known as Pearl, suffered from several afflictions including poor dental health, respiratory infection, and possibly gout.